Nowadays crofters use plastic tags, clipped onto the ears of their sheep, to enable them to identify their flock, but that was not always the case.
There were nine basic cuts to the ear and by using different combinations of these cuts every crofter had his (or her) own unique earmark and this identified the sheep. Unlike the plastic tags, which can be lost in fences etc, the 'comharran' were for life. In Lewis, the marks 1 to 9 are the old ear-marks known as "na noidh gearraidh". Nos.10 and 11 are of more modern origin.
The "near" ear is "Cluas Chli", "Cluas Taisgeil"or "Cluas a'Ghlacaidh" the "far" ear is "Cluas Dheas".
The cuts to the ear appear below. For details of individual croft earmarks go here.
Hole made in the centre of the ear
Top cut off the ear
Slit made downwards from the top of the ear
V with apex downwards cut from the top of the ear
Triangular piece taken from top of the ear
Semi-circular piece taken from underside of ear
7. Gearradh Crocain
Slit taken diagonally upwards at side of the ear
Slit made at the side across the ear
Slice taken from side of the ear
Dovetail shaped piece taken from side of the ear
11. An t-snathad
Slit made in the centre of the ear by bending the ear lengthwise and cutting down, leaving a tongue like that of a net needle,from which it takes its name
12. Bacan Hard
Fore or upper part of the barr cut off.(Argyll)
13. Bacan Iosal
Hind or lower part of the barr cut off.(Argyll)
14. Beum Os Cionn na Cluaise
Piece like no.6 taken from upper side of ear
Piece taken from side of ear shaped like a cas-chrom.(Gairloch)
Two parallel slits made downwards from the top
17. Da Bheum
18. Beum a' Mhearlich
If a thief cuts off no.6 , the mark becomes barr